Hip-Hop and the White House (2024) Movie Script

Can I say something?
I know y'all think-- And turn my mic up.
[Jay "Jeezy" Jenkins narrating]
The show of love, I'll never forget it.
[on-screen] A lot of people right now,
the people in the Barack Obama campaign,
[on TV] just everybody
who helped get everything.
Everybody who was out in the street
getting votes and all that shit.
[crowd cheering]
[announcer] Yeah!
It was so much energy.
You would've thought we all won.
It was electrifying.
-[indistinct rapping]
-[audience cheering and rapping along]
This our moment, we, you know,
our guy's in the White House
and I do my verse,
you know, club goes crazy
and then I pass the mic to Jay-Z.
Anybody feel me?
My president is Black,
in fact he's half white
So even in a racist mind,
he's half right
So if you got a racist mind,
it's alright
My president is Black,
but his house is all white
[Jeezy] I feel like it helped him
become the first Black president
because when you connect hip-hop culture
and our movement to that movement he had,
I feel like it was, it was set up to win.
You know what I'm saying?
It was already written.
Hip-hop speaks truth to power.
The President of
the United States of America is the power.
This is the story
of how hip-hop got the power.
We know Donald Trump did heard it.
You know what I'm saying? [chuckles]
Well, Reagan's the father of crack cocaine
as far as we're concerned.
President Obama said,
"Wow, we really keeping it real here."
To tell you the truth,
I believe that Clinton liked hip-hop.
Little Bush? Little Bush was around.
Call me racist.
In 2020, Obama put me
on his summer playlist.
I'm still the only president
to listen to Jay-Z's music
in the Oval Office.
Donald Trump, like he's a real nigga
'cause he's unapologetic.
We got Kanye in the White House saying,
"Free Larry Hoover."
Can we affect policy?
There's a lot of people come in that room
and do nothing in that room.
The letter from the White House
is mo' crazy to me
than Donald Trump hearing the song.
[Jeezy] This is
Hip-Hop and The White House.
Let's get it.
And now, to present
the excitement of youth, the sights,
and the sounds of a big city,
here are New York City Breakers.
[hip-hop music playing]
[Jeezy] Hip-hop has been connected
to presidents from the jump.
The culture was created
50 years ago by DJs, breakers,
graffiti artists, and rappers
responding to a life of oppression.
This environment
was the result of policies
that came straight out of the White House.
So I lived in different sections
of the Bronx growing up all of my life,
playing in empty lots,
you know, just with rubble all around,
bouncing on mattresses and...
I mean, it was what it was.
We didn't know what was behind us
being there until later on.
[Dave "Davey D" Cook] I remember
when Jimmy Carter came to the Bronx,
it was a big deal.
What preceded it?
That was Gerald Ford who was the president
who basically told
New York City to kick rocks
when we were going through
our financial hardships in the '70s
and he said, "We're not
gonna bail out New York."
That had a direct correlation
to the conditions
that would lead rise to hip-hop.
Prior to that was Richard Nixon
who started a war on drugs.
So those conditions of oppression
that was coming in
from the highest office of the land.
But real hip-hop was always
about doing our own thing
within our own community.
You're gonna give us garbage,
we're gonna turn it into
a billion dollar something.
That was always the attitude.
Hip-hop has always been political
because of the context
in which it was created.
[Jeezy] When President Reagan
took office in January 1981,
I was just a baby growing up in Georgia.
I didn't know anything about Reaganomics.
That was Reagan's budget policy
that slashed funding
in the poor neighborhoods
and gave tax breaks to the wealthy.
[KRS-One] When President Reagan
would come on television
and say things like, "We're gonna
cut this budget and cut that budget,"
people don't realize
that the very next day something happened,
meaning something
was missing from your community
and we could see it
happening in real time.
My fellow citizens,
[clears throat]
the matter that brings me
before you today is a grave one
and concerns
my most solemn duty as president.
It is the cause of freedom
in Central America
and the national security
of the United States.
There was a storm brewing.
It was a political storm and I just didn't
have any idea what it was gonna be
until I saw the effects of it.
We was expecting for it to be rain,
but crack rained down,
and that was the storm that was coming.
[Jeezy] The crack cocaine epidemic
hit America during Reagan's presidency,
but there was some things
none of us understood at the time.
Reagan administration officials knew
Central American drug traffickers
were importing cocaine
into our neighborhoods.
Why didn't Reagan's government
stop these drugs from coming in?
Because the sales
were funding military conflicts
that the Reagan administration
was supporting.
Imagine that.
Oliver North introduced us to cocaine
In the '80s when them bricks
came on military planes
What I discovered was that
some of this was known about,
uh, by the CIA
and maybe the DA and others.
Now, all of a sudden there was this,
this new thing
running around called crack.
It would be for years
that we actually got it confirmed
that Reagan and the CIA
and his war to, to fund the war
was the reason why that happened.
Well, Reagan's the father of crack cocaine
as far as we're concerned,
the whole Iran Contra, Oliver North,
the whole weapons,
the coke, the whole thing.
Crack blew up and so did hip-hop
at the same exact time.
They actually grew up together.
Hip-hop grew out of the crack era.
All of that is a part of
hip-hop's real and actual history,
which makes Ronald Reagan part of
hip-hop's real and natural history.
The way I see Reagan connected to hip-hop
is giving us something to rap about.
Because of the influx of these drugs,
because of what's going on
in those communities.
You know, you get records like The Message
[KRS-One] "Rats in the front room,
roaches in the back,
junkies in the alley
with that baseball bat."
"I have a bum education,
double-digit inflation,
can't take the train to the job,
there's a strike at the station."
"Don't push me 'cause I'm clo--"
This is describing oppression,
straight up and down.
Somebody speaking our plight,
somebody's giving us our existence,
somebody understands
what we going through.
It's like a jungle sometimes
It makes me wonder
how I keep from going under
Life is hard.
I mean, for the average person,
life is extra hard
and Message tapped into that emotion
and I think that's the politic behind it,
you know, it was a real-life emotion.
Even, you know, throughout my whole life
you could see
where something is wrong in politics.
You know, you could figure out where the,
where the scam is, you know what I mean?
[Jeezy] After his reelection,
Reagan brought the New York City Breakers
to perform at his inauguration,
the first official contact
between hip-hop and the White House.
It's not Reagan loving hip-hop,
you can't tell me
it's Reagan loving hip-hop,
but it's a political move.
The fact that it's being used or exploited
in a way, it's like a give-and-take.
Alright. You use me, I use you.
[Jeezy] Our neighborhoods
continued to suffer
through Reagan's second term
and hip-hop narrated the whole drama.
Too Short, Ice-T, Toddy Tee, Public Enemy.
Those are just a few rappers who reveal
what Reagan's so-called war on drugs did
to the places where hip-hop lived.
Then came a record
that changed the whole game.
I was 11 when I heard it,
it went a little something like this...
Searching my car,
looking for the product
Thinking every nigga
is selling narcotics
[Jeezy] The year was 1988.
The group was N.W.A.
Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, MC Ren, DJ Yella,
and a dope dealer named Eazy-E.
While I'm driving off laughing,
this is what I'll say
Fuck the police
-[record scratches]
-Fuck, fuck
Fuck the police
-[record scratches]
-Fuck, fuck
[Jeezy] Hip-hop and its relationship
with the White House
would never be the same.
When I heard it and then
there was so much talk about it,
I just thought it was a revelation
that had taken place
and that's what
a lot of people were thinking.
They just didn't have the nerve to say it.
It was political
because the police have been thought of
as the saviors that keep
the communities safe and secure
and they were untouchable
in terms of criticism.
For him to have the courage
to say F the police,
uh, was new, different, and exciting.
[Jeezy] It wasn't exciting
to the federal government.
Reagan's vice president
George H.W. Bush was elected
to replace him in the White House.
The FBI sent the group
a threatening letter
and then Eazy-E
pulled a real gangster move.
He's not a presidential advisor yet,
but his rap has gained him entry
to the Republican elite.
[newscaster] You might not have guessed
that Eazy-E, Eric Wright is his real name,
would be among this group of
well-off Republicans who paid $1,250
to become members of something
called the Republican Inner Circle
who were waiting in line today to hear
law-and-order man George Bush
at a private, members only reception.
In the scheme of presidential politics,
I think Eazy-E rests in a place of, um...
He's a precedent.
He is, uh, an early stage
of our political awareness.
He does hold the title
of being one of the first,
if not the first, a major rap figure, uh,
to engage with the White House
in this kind of meaningful way.
That means that we are in there.
That means that we have definitely
broken down barriers and walls.
You're only placed in certain rooms
by the influence that you hold.
It's not you, the one person
that's in the room that they're allowing.
They're allowing everyone
that's associated with you,
that listens to you, that follows you
in the room at that point.
But you gotta also ask
what did he get out of it?
Did hip-hop win with anything with that?
Did we gain anything?
[Jeezy] That's a fair question.
There's one thing
that hip-hop gained for sure,
the attention of a young governor
with his eyes on the White House.
Some Americans were
completely shocked at the verdict
in the Rodney King case
and the violence which followed.
At least nine people dead,
more than 400 injured,
nearly a thousand in jail.
There was no justice in America today,
and I'm glad they showed it to the world.
[glass shatters]
[Jeezy] Let me set the scene.
It was 1992,
Bill Clinton was running
for president as a Democrat.
He wanted to send a message
to moderate white voters
that he was a safe choice.
So he went to Reverend Jesse Jackson
and his Rainbow Coalition Conference
and decided to criticize
a young Black rapper and activist.
You had a, a rap singer here last night
named Sister Souljah.
I defend her right
to express herself through music.
But her comments
before and after Los Angeles
were filled with the kind of hatred
that you do not honor today and tonight.
[Jeezy] Many people believe Clinton took
Souljah's statements out of context.
[Maxine Waters] He too wanted to capture
some of those people
who thought that there was some danger,
uh, in the hip-hop community,
uh, with rappers,
uh, with young Black people
who were denouncing them.
He was a brilliant politician
in understanding the need to triangulate
among the different
constituencies in America.
So he was more than willing
to throw young Black folks under the bus
in order to make people feel more secure
who already had a bias
against young Black people.
The rap singer Governor Clinton
had criticized last weekend rapped back.
Considerable time has been spent
debating whether America
should take seriously
the words of a rap artist
or so-called entertainers.
Let me clarify for the press now
who I am.
I am Sister Souljah, Sony, epic, rapper,
activist, organizer, and lecturer.
I have spoken on the same platform
with Jesse Jackson,
Minister Louis Farrakhan,
Reverend Ben Chavis,
Reverend Dr. Calvin Butts
and Nelson Mandela.
As you can see, I am no newcomer
to the world of politics and movements.
I met Sister Souljah
at Howard University, '88, '89.
Around that time,
I traveled around the country with her,
uh, and spoke at schools and jails
and other things like that.
So we became really close.
Obviously, she was incensed by this,
uh, but she also was,
like, smart and strategic enough
to understand what this was about
and wanted to respond to it in a way, uh,
that she thought, uh,
would, would have impact.
I stand before you today
feeling very confident,
steadfast, and powerful.
At the same time, I am surprised
that as a young African woman
I have impacted and affected
the development
of not only national politics,
but international politics as well.
[Ras J. Baraka] Just really articulating
how powerful we had become
as a hip-hop community
that the president of the United States
would feel that he could gain something
by attacking,
uh, this movement at that time.
Like, she just, boom.
And she's smarter than him.
You not gonna be able
to come back from this, bro.
Not with her.
[Jeezy] But Clinton did come back.
His tactics helped him
get elected president five months later.
Then he invited LL Cool J
to perform at his inauguration.
I remember all the girls
having a crush on LL
when I was in middle school,
and he was smart, sexy, and ambitious.
And I think when he took the stage, um,
he understood that this was
gonna broaden his audience.
So instead of Clinton triangulating him,
he was triangulating on the Clintons.
That was an incredible transition for us.
Not only are we in the White House,
but now we are part of the White House,
especially on its biggest day,
on its biggest stage
on the hugest platform.
1992, Bill Clinton is elected.
Young Jeezy is literally young Jeezy,
15, 16 years old.
What is your life like
and what hip-hop are you listening to?
[Jeezy] I think I'm playing Bun B, um,
a lot of West Coast music at the time.
A lot of West Coast music.
Uh, N.W.A for sure.
I'm living with my grandmother,
and music is my life.
That's, that's how
I'm navigating through things
because I'm basically
learning through the music.
Tupac was my first introduction
into politics.
Pac was naming out senators,
he was talking about district attorneys
and, you know, it's like
I didn't even know what this stuff was.
It made me go ask the questions,
"What is a senator?"
You know, "What makes
the president the president?"
[Farai Chideya]
The Clinton years were an era
where we saw the growth of hip-hop
towards the global industry
it has now become.
You got New Orleans entering the game,
you got Houston being a big factor.
A lot of the content is changing.
[Jeezy] Goodbye, Sister Souljah.
Hello, Lil' Kim.
This was before
music moved to the Internet.
Hip-hop fans
bought hundreds of millions of CDs.
The hood made more money than ever,
selling records and selling dope.
The music industry is starting to push
a lot of the more political artists out.
You still have political artists,
but they're not within the mainstream.
The superstructure itself
decide to make a very conscious shift,
to not play certain things,
to not talk about certain music, right?
They would put on the radio,
somebody talking about shooting you
or degrading your character
as opposed to Public Enemy.
[upbeat music playing]
[Jeezy] After Clinton,
came George W. Bush.
When Bush started dropping bombs on Iraq,
rap music was hustling
and popping champagne
but underneath all that,
the hip-hop generation
was gathering political power.
By the time you get to the early 2000s,
there is a generation
of young people who saw
the power and influence of hip-hop
could be used to transform
the country and our communities.
And so they began to organize
under the banner of hip-hop.
[Jeezy] We had Rap the Vote,
the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network,
the League of Young Voters.
As Bush ran for reelection,
Bakari Kitwana and Ras Baraka
the National Hip-Hop Political Convention.
Three thousand people
from across the country
attended in the summer of 2004.
[Baraka] All over the country,
all over the world,
people were listening to hip-hop music
and we influenced the way
people dressed, what they drink,
what they thought,
the words they said.
Right? We influenced so much stuff.
So we thought that we could,
like, bottle that influence,
if you will, like package it
and begin to use it specifically
to help us in our community
to, to change our conditions.
[Bakari Kitwana] There hadn't been
a concerted effort to bring this power
of hip-hop to the national level.
What if we can turn this same type
of influence onto electoral policy?
It would completely change the game.
Early 2000s,
straight up out the trunk, you know,
paying for my own music,
uh, printing up CDs,
you know, doing shows and, and, uh,
venues that didn't have stages.
It was like I was on my grind
and I was just trying
to figure out my voice
and my identity like,
and, and a lot of what I was doing
was coming from a lot
of the influence that I got from Pac.
I was like, "Yo, you know,
I'm gonna motivate myself
and others in the process."
And that was like my mindset,
um, and also watching
what was going on with the world.
I remember seeing, uh, Hillary Clinton
in 2004 sitting next to Diddy
at the Democratic Convention.
MTV had Diddy interview her there.
He had his own,
you know, Vote or Die.
And-and Clinton kept talking about
how much that, you know,
he hit the nail on the head
with the phrase, "Vote or Die."
And I saw some people
walking across the street
with the Vote or Die shirt
and it didn't register then.
And when I started to make this project
I was working on, uh,
the first record I came up with,
I was like, I want this to be
like a national anthem for the streets.
I was like, "Yo, trap or die,"
it's gonna be a movement
because I saw what they was doing,
but I was like, how can this,
how can I have my movement in the streets?
And it's like I really ran
that whole campaign,
like a presidential, uh, campaign
because what I saw them doing,
I just went and emulated that.
...die, nigga
We trap or die, nigga
Mix the flake with the soda,
you got Young Jeezy
You still wanna talk blow man
Soft white like Alaska,
call me snowman
[Jeezy] Even though
most of hip-hop lined up
against Bush in the 2004 election,
he still won.
But the power of hip-hop was felt.
In 2004, youth voter participation
increased nine percent from the year 2000.
It represents Black people
and hip-hop mobilizing for power, right?
Hip-hop continues to speak truth to power.
-[wind blowing]
-[palms thrashing]
[Bun B] We bear witness
to so much trauma and abuse.
There's so many people that we know
and that we've come across
and walk through life with
and care for and love deeply,
who simply, no one
will ever know their struggle,
and no one speaks for them.
And that's where that comes from,
from a lot of hip-hop records.
It's not even about
their own personal experience,
but they're speaking for the person
that they know
cannot speak for themselves.
And if you don't say something,
these people will have gone
through this life with no one ever
really even knowing they existed.
The population of New Orleans
is 67% Black.
So it's not surprising
that the face of suffering
in that city this week has been
largely African American.
The slow response to the victims
of Hurricane Katrina
has led to questions about race, poverty,
and a seemingly indifferent government.
I noticed that especially in New Orleans,
that the response is greater
when it's white compared
to when it's Black.
And if those areas that are named
where people are not having food and water
is generally the Black population.
[Jeezy] Enter Kanye West.
Ye was on a telethon
raising money for hurricane victims
with millions of people watching.
Kanye did what Melle Mel,
Eazy-E and Public Enemy had done before.
Ye gave us a bar that captured
exactly how hip-hop felt.
"George Bush doesn't care
about Black people."
When Ye said, "George Bush
doesn't care about Black people,"
that was supremely important.
It needed to be said like,
"No, we know what's up.
"We know who you are.
You ain't fooling us
and we gonna expose you."
Kanye really hit a nerve,
and not just Black people,
but white people
and people of every race saw the failure
of the US government
to protect its own citizens.
[Curren$y] My mom's house, wiped out.
A few of my homeys died in that shit,
and, um, one of my, one of my partners,
his cousin, like,
drowned right behind him.
He just got tired
and told him like, just fuck it.
Like, like, go ahead.
I'm too tired for this shit.
And just went under the water.
Black people were seen
on television begging for help.
There had been no real plans
in the New Orleans area
to deal with such a disaster.
And nobody came for a long time.
It was a horrible situation.
Who was the state representatives
in Louisiana?
We argue with the things
our president should do,
when the people that actually
are head of our state should be doing.
No, they didn't. They didn't.
Why do we even look for help
if we knew it was help--
wasn't help in the very beginning?
George Bush took a plane
and, um, you know,
did a tour over the area
and he said something about
the FEMA director was doing a good job.
Again, I wanna thank you all for--
And, Brownie,
you're doing a heck of a job.
The FEMA director's working 24--
He must be crazy.
They're not doing a good job.
These people are suffering.
When Kanye said that, it hit home.
[Jeezy] The quote, "George Bush
doesn't care about Black people"
is one of the most memorable lines
in hip-hop history.
It landed on the White House like a bomb.
Trust and believe,
the president felt the blast.
Called me a racist
and I didn't appreciate it then
and I don't, I don't appreciate it now.
It's one thing to say, you know,
I don't appreciate the way
he's handled his business.
It's another thing to say,
this man's a racist.
I resent it. It's not true.
And it's one of the most
disgusting moments of my presidency.
George Bush needed to hear that,
and he... [chuckles]
and he heard it.
It had a powerful effect
and that's how powerful
hip-hop had become.
Bush's response was fascinating.
The question was,
what was the most, uh,
controversial moment of your presidency
or something like that.
He asked him, right?
And so it's deep that he's sitting there
and that's what he thinks of.
You know what I thought of
when he's in Egypt
or somewhere in the Middle East
and somebody throws a shoe at him, right?
I was like, "Well, damn,
what about the shoe?"
You had a shoe thrown at you
during a press conference
and you still talking about Kanye?
Kanye was, in a moment, um,
just a catalyst for a truth
that needed to be screamed
the way that it was.
Very influential, legendary moment
that I don't think you forget.
[interviewer] Bush is in his second term.
Tell me about
where you were in your career.
I was thuggin'.
[chuckles] Shit.
I was, uh, relentlessly in the streets,
you know what I'm saying?
I was a totally different individual
and I was trying
to get out of the struggle
and also, like,
taking the music thing seriously.
I was... getting outside of my circle,
you know what I'm saying?
Just outside of just the street politics.
So I got credit cards and things
so I can move around to some nice places.
Once I got in the rooms,
I started asking the questions, right?
I always like to consider myself
the people's champ, right?
And my job is to get
the information back to the culture.
I connected it in a way that I would say
when I was listening to music
that Pac and N.W.A,
and those guys connected me
because it was
in the language that I speak
for people who have been
following my movement.
They're like, "Hold up,
if he's concerned about this
"and if he's feeling like
this is important,
um, then maybe I should check into it."
And that's when I wrote The Recession.
What an extraordinary weekend
on the campaign trail
with two leading candidates
for the Democratic presidential nomination
campaigning full-bore,
even though the general election
is more than a year and a half away.
Barack Obama,
who formally announced on Saturday
and Hillary Clinton
are pulling no punches.
[newscaster] Senator Barack Obama
is watching Black political leaders
throw support to Hillary Clinton, and why?
They have said publicly
they don't think America
is ready to elect a Black candidate.
[Chideya] He was on the struggle bus
for the first part
of the 2008 campaign
and he did need hip-hop.
He did need a validation of his Blackness
and his viability with Black voters.
And Black voters
were very slow to warm to him.
Lately, I've been listening
to a lot of Jay-Z.
I mean this, this new American Gangster,
it tells a story and, uh,
and, you know,
uh, you know, he's...
as Jay would say, "He got flow."
Honestly, I love the art of hip-hop.
I don't always love
the message of hip-hop,
sometimes degrading to women,
not only uses the N-word
a little too frequently,
but also something
I'm really concerned about
is always talking about material things.
We organize a fundraiser for Obama.
I think we raised $250,000 or something
with the thinking
that we were gonna be able
to meet and bring the issues
of the hip-hop community
before the would-be next president.
But he wouldn't meet with us.
So we didn't give him the money.
[Jeezy] Obama was being careful
not to offend certain voters
by getting too close to hip-hop,
but he knew how to send us a message.
When you're running for the presidency,
then you've gotta expect it.
Uh, and, you know,
you've just gotta kinda let it...
-[hip-hop music playing]
-[crowd cheering]
You know.
That was him telling us like,
"Go to the polls
"because I am, I am totally in tune.
"I'm in the car with you,
so I need you to be in the car with me."
He's a real nigga! [laughs]
Yeah, bro, that's what I thought, bro.
If you know, you know,
some people might have saw him do that
and thought, "Oh, okay,"
they might not have known 'cause...
You better get
that dirt off your shoulders
Like, they don't know
that that was an anthem.
Obama really did need
some shine from, from the streets.
How did I become aware of Barack Obama?
Uh, I was sitting in this, um, restaurant
we love in Atlanta...
um, called Spondivits.
And he was on the news channel
and when I heard him speak
it, it, it felt like
he was talking to and for me.
And I was like, "Damn."
Like, I've never...
felt like I can connect with somebody
that could possibly be the president
and I would find myself, like,
catching stuff he said online
or catching stuff that he was saying
on the news channels.
Like, I'm just like, "Man,
like, I really believe in his heart,
like, he really wants to make a change."
[Bun B]
I think with Obama, I saw myself.
It was very clear
that he identified in a Black man
and he was very deeply entrenched
in Black culture.
I definitely wanted to make sure
I'm not only on the right side of history,
but I was active in the moment.
We felt like Obama had spoken to us
and we wanted to make sure that the people
who maybe were not tuned in politically
like we were understood the message.
Like, hey, you must not know.
Like, this is a new time,
this is a new age.
This the man right here.
Y'all need to come on in.
Barack Obama for me,
this is respectfully,
I say this about the president.
I never, I never had a-a feeling
that he would change nothing.
I-I just, I-I literally just knew like,
bro, this man is not about to change shit.
One of my first art projects
is literally a portrait of Barack Obama,
and I did it in sixth grade.
The idea of a Black president
to an 11-year-old kid,
an 11-year-old Black kid
who lives in Montgomery, Alabama.
Um... We were ready.
It was like, I, I was aware,
hyperaware of racism
and, and, um... segregation
and, and things that had
plagued my hometown
and also our history as a people.
Uh, so the idea that we were gonna
have one in the White House,
it was like, oh, like, y'all finna--
Everything's about to change.
The Recession album was done.
And I hear this, this beat
and I'm just walking around the house
and I keep singing in my head,
"My president is Black,"
and I look at my man, I say,
"Yo, I'ma go to the studio
and drop this."
And he was like,
"Man, the album's done. You know the..."
I said, "No, I'm just gonna cut it
'cause I, 'cause I feel it."
So later on that day
we go to the studio, knock it out
and I'm like, "Yo, this is it.
This is how I'ma end the album."
My president is Black
My Lambo's blue
And I be... if my rims ain't too
My mama ain't at home
and daddy's still in jail
Tryin' to make a plate,
ain't nobody seen the...
My president is...
Everybody that was in the studio
was like, "It sounds good,
"but, uh, if he doesn't win,
you gonna look crazy
"'cause the album comes out now
"and, and, and, and it's gonna
be like, you know,
almost five months away
from the, um, from the election."
You know, I was like,
"No, he's gonna win."
[chuckles] You know what I'm saying?
Like, he's-he's gonna win the election.
Young Jeezy fuckin' elected
President Obama.
He definitely, like,
got more people to the polls with a song.
People who never planned
on going to the polls.
I'm like, "Oh, you're here
because of Jeezy." Like, this...
"You've never,
you've never done this before.
I got you, but we're glad to have you."
When he won,
I jumped in my Lamborghini,
I drove through the city,
I went on Peachtree, let my doors up.
I was playing My President is Black.
Everybody was, you know,
just, it was like a parade.
Everybody's like,
"We did it, Jeezy, we did it."
I'm like, "Yeah, we did it."
Every car, every house, every apartment.
It's, it's like, that's all you heard.
That's all you heard.
["My President Is Black"
remix by Jay-Z playing]
The show of love,
they knew who I was in that room,
the man of the hour.
And mind you,
nobody know Jay-Z did the remix.
I had been, you know, celebration.
I, I was lit, you know what I'm saying?
I was, you know, about five bottles in.
So I might have said
some things that was, uh, on my heart.
[Jeezy laughs]
My president is
motherfucking Black, nigga!
It was bigger than just
the song, uh, you know,
this was a moment in time for us
and I felt like, you know,
this, this was the one time
I could do some good.
You know what I'm saying?
And, and we did. We did good.
It's an honor, uh, to be here
in the White House Library
NPR Music presents Common.
[Common] Thank you.
-Thank you so much.
Freedom come
Hold on, won't be long
Freedom come
Hold on, won't be long
Man, the emotions...
and feelings I had
walking into the White House
to greet President Barack Obama
and First Lady Michelle Obama.
I was overwhelmed and,
and I had this
spiritual feeling that like...
"What did I do to be able to get here?"
[rapping] We let go to free them
so we could free us
America's moment
to come to Jesus, come on
The journey hip-hop has taken
from the back house to the White House.
It makes me think about our ancestors.
They helped build that White House
and at a time where we were enslaved.
The progress that we've made
as Black people
in, in this country,
Black and brown
when it comes to hip-hop,
it's one of the greatest gifts.
And we did it, like, we did it.
It was life-blowing, mind-blowing.
It shook my soul in a good way.
Obama was the first hip-hop president.
He understood
that the hip-hop culture was here
and that it was having great influence.
And he identified with that.
Obama just swagged out, dawg.
You know what I'm saying?
Obama just, he be hooping,
you know what I'm saying?
Athletes and hip-hop, we go together.
The struggle that,
that artists talk about in their music,
we have that same struggle,
we have that same grind.
You use your life and what you've
been through and your struggles
and you try to make that your future.
My first trip to the White House was crazy
because, you know,
this was his first term.
He's a hooper. And so, we were like,
"Hey, you trying to hoop?"
So we played HORSE with him
at the White House.
I'm not gonna lie, he got a little J.
He has a little J on him.
He be doing all this like... [chuckles]
Like, he like a, uh,
like Obama, like a uncle.
Uncle Obama. What up, dawg?
How you doing today, man? You good?
Obama was tapped in, bro.
[Jeezy] Obama did
what any smart brother would do.
Hip-hop helped him get elected.
So he returned the favor.
Obama became the first president
to invite multiple rappers
into the White House.
You have a Black man in the White House,
you have hip-hop as a global force
and you have it all together
in perfect configuration.
They formed this incredible phalanx
of institutional arts
and culture and politics.
There was this mutual admiration
of powerful forces
and I think it really
stunned a lot of people.
That's how you knew
that he was your brother
because he did what your brother would do
if he got into a good position.
Your homey gonna call you.
"Yo, I'm in this big ass house,
and they got TV there,
I think you could just pull up."
I'm gonna keep it a book, you know?
'Cause I ain't gonna do nothing
that ain't a hundred.
When I saw Obama
inviting all those rappers,
I was a little offended,
you know what I'm saying?
Because I'm like, "Hey, how you
not gonna invite your man?"
My team gets a call
from somebody from Obama's camp,
um, and they just wanted to thank us
for all the work we've done.
And there was a correspondence dinner
that happened in New York,
and I'm like, "Yeah, when I see him,
we gonna dap like this
and we gonna hug like that."
And, and I remember
my security talking to Secret Service
and I just, the whole time
they were just shaking their head.
They're saying, "You can't be even here.
Like, you gotta get off the premises."
And I'm like, "Off the premises"?
They did a thorough
background check on me.
I took it personal a little bit, I did.
I just was like, "Damn, you know, like...
you know, they don't see me."
You know what I'm saying?
He don't see me.
You know what I'm saying?
I had to really, like, sit back
and look inward and be like,
"Okay, this is my moment
"to accept that because you know my past
is my past, I can't change that.
I can just work on my future."
In April 2016,
Obama brought artists
to discuss criminal justice reform.
J. Cole, Nicki Minaj, Common, Ludacris,
Wale, Chance the Rapper,
Alicia Keys, DJ Khaled,
Timbaland, Busta, Pusha T and Rick Ross.
So inspiring, so motivational.
White House, baby.
You could see
the, the pictures on the walls
and, and think like,
they never thought
that we would be meeting in here.
They never thought
that we would have the,
the power and the voice that we had and,
and the expression that we had
in that room in the White House.
So the talks were really in depth
and we were getting into it.
And, um, this beeping starts to go off.
President Obama was like,
"Wait, what? What? What's that?
Wait, what is that?"
And then Rick Ross was like, "Yo, that's
my, my ankle monitor," you know.
President Obama said,
"Wow, we really keeping it real here."
I don't know if they had that
in the White House ever.
A bunch of people
went in the White House with Obama.
We don't know what happened.
All we saw is pictures.
I ain't seen no list of demands.
This is supposed to be our guy.
Why are we not privy
to what going on inside?
That is a question that I asked myself
when I saw rappers at the White House.
"What is happening?"
And you never really get an answer.
Are we in the inside
or are we just being shuffled along?
I know what it's doing for Barack.
I know what it's doing for the presidency.
Can we affect the policy?
There's a lot of people come in that room
and do nothing in that room.
How do we affect the change?
Obama kinda has tried to play
both sides of the fence.
He's being a politician.
Sometimes he's fighting for us,
sometimes he's using us.
One of the most controlled examples
really is that Jay-Z and Obama ad.
To me the idea of America
is that no matter who you are,
what you look like or where you come from,
you can make it if you try.
Jay-Z did.
He didn't come from power or privilege.
He got ahead because he worked hard,
learned from his mistakes
and just plain refused to quit.
It's such a tightly structured,
well-thought-through political ad
and it definitely tries to play with
what does hip-hop want
and what are we not gonna give it?
He's talking about the American dream.
Anybody can make it in America.
And that's, that's really not our message
when it comes to hip-hop.
Hip-hop got in common
with President Obama is that...
he got ice in his veins.
Like, you can tell somewhere
down the line he know what's up,
and that's what hip-hop is,
knowing what's up.
And my mom called me and she was like,
"Baby, did you hear the president
shout you out last night?"
And I said, "Well, you know,
I don't really think
he rock with me like that, Mama."
And she's like, "No, he shouted you out."
She sent it to me and I, and I press play.
In my first term, I sang Al Green.
In my second term
I'm going with Young Jeezy.
Obama out.
[laughter and applause]
[mouths] Thank you.
I'm just like, "Oh, wow."
He said, "Michelle likes that
when I sing that to her at night."
That there to me was that salute
and head nod from a distance.
Like, "I see you, I appreciate you,
but you know what it is."
And that's why I said
he got ice in his veins.
Only somebody with ice in their veins
would know to give you a nod
from a distance that, "I see you,
I see you," you know.
Obama was hip-hop.
Obama was incredibly hip-hop.
[Bun B] Meeting Obama was crazy.
So soft spoken, such...
such reverence in his presence,
um, without being imposing,
um, just such
an amazing human being to meet,
if not for 30 seconds, right?
But it was everything
I wanted the moment to be.
I cherish it to this day.
[YG] I mean, the handshakes
he used to give people,
you know what I'm saying?
I'm like, "Yeah!"
Like, like, it was just good to see, like,
to see, like, a Black president
and he acting like us.
You know what I'm saying?
I wouldn't be surprised
if he had, like, a little book
of Obama rhymes somewhere.
Obama was naturally
just a cool motherfucker.
He loves the culture,
he respects the art form.
Um, he cares about his music.
In 2020, Obama put me
on his summer playlist.
I wrote CROWN when I was 19 years old
and I, I just graduated high school
and I did not know
whether or not my dreams
would ever come to fruition.
Literally me being like,
I'm gonna have to--
I, I love this too much to not pursue it.
That's probably why
Obama was listening to it.
I think that's what it is.
He's like, "How can I be president?"
But then he did it. I'm proud of him.
Hi, Obama. [laughs]
When Barack was in the office
and it was like
the second to the last party when,
before he left the White House.
Well, I was like, I'ma play
the hardest record I got now
-to see what you... You know.
And I put on M.O.P.'s Ante Up
in the White House and--
No, you did not!
And the floor was like vibrating.
People went crazy.
-And I was like, "Oh, God."
-[exhales deeply]
And that was just incredible
because he was playing Mobb Deep
and, and Mary J. and, like,
and M.O.P. and, like, you know,
Black Moon in the White House
and people were really
dancing and celebrating.
It was like one of those things
where you, you look around
and say, "Do you see
what's going on in this place?"
I know it's like always used, but you just
can't help but think like, "Never thought
that hip-hop would take it this far."
Ante up
Yap that fool
Ante up
Kidnap that fool
It's the perfect timing,
you see the man shining
Get up off them goddamn diamonds
[hip-hop music playing]
I'm not a political rapper.
Like, my music is not about
the politics of the world.
Me and Nipsey, we was
in the studio working on a, a project,
we two gang members
making it out the city.
You know what I'm saying?
From different sides.
We in the studio and the TV on.
This when Donald Trump announced,
you know what I'm saying,
he was running for president.
It's like at the beginning
of his campaign,
we just started seeing
Donald Trump on the TV a lot.
Like, you could tell,
like, Obama was a good person,
you know what I'm saying?
How he carried himself, how he talked
and then it go to, like,
somebody like Donald Trump
who is just like reckless
and talking out the side of his neck,
racist than a motherfucker.
You know, we gotta say something.
Nobody trying to get they shows canceled
and be going through--
We already going through that.
So how worse could it be?
Let's do this.
Fuck Donald Trump
Fuck Donald Trump
Yeah, nigga, fuck Donald Trump
Yeah, yeah, fuck Donald Trump
Yeah, fuck Donald Trump
Yeah, fuck Donald Trump
I love them saying it
because sometimes I felt like
I was out there by myself.
I respected it, you know what I'm saying?
Because you know, for the,
for the younger hip-hop generation,
he took a stance.
You know what I'm saying?
He took a real stance.
It was too catchy too. I'm like, "Damn."
It was like just as easy
as "Fuck tha Police."
It was timely. It was unexpected.
And I think that's one of
the powerful things about hip-hop.
America politicizes Black people
by its public policy towards Black people.
So you don't have to be
a political hip-hop artist
to make a political statement.
[YG] Somebody got a letter
from, like, Secret Service, FBI,
like, the White House and shit.
And, like, me and Nip was all in papers,
like, talking about the song,
me and Nip was getting banned
from performances
from college campuses.
It was all type of shit going on.
I'm like, "Yeah, I knew this was
gonna happen," and you feel me?
We like, "Fuck it,
'cause it's like we stood up."
I believe Trump heard the song.
He had to hear the song
if the White House,
if they sending letters out and shit.
They was probably like, "Hey, hey, hey,
Mr. Trump, you gotta hear this."
You gotta realize around that time,
it was a get money time
and we liked the fact
that Trump was getting money.
We loved that.
I had a song called Donald Trump,
and this is the thing
you gotta understand,
he was the person we equated with money.
That's all we ever heard
about him being tied to,
you know, billions of dollars.
And when I made my song, you know,
I never made that song from the stance
of him being the president,
nor did I ever think
he would be the president.
That was because I was
relating it to the money, right?
And I think, um, in the beginning
everybody was doing that.
The Trump presidency as a whole
did not have time to blossom.
I think we were onto something
at the very end
and I don't think
that there was time enough
to kind of get the thing going.
People say he polarized the country.
I don't believe that.
We got Kanye in the White House
saying, "Free Larry Hoover."
That's powerful to me.
You know, they tried to scare me
to not wear this hat, my own friends.
But this hat, it gives me,
it gives me power in a way.
Let me give this guy a hug right here.
-[shutters snapping]
-I love this guy right here. Yeah.
-That's really...
There are definitely aspects
of Trump's personality and actions
that call to the baser nature of hip-hop.
You know, hip-hop is a whole range.
You have, uh, hip-hop
that's explicitly misogynistic.
Some people in hip-hop who were
used to demeaning women
may have looked at Donald Trump
and the, "Grab them by the pussy,"
and all that
as a feature, not a bug as they say,
as something to be sought after.
To have that level of impunity,
which a Black man will never have.
It is the same line that,
it is, uh, two different
artists' interpretation
of the same view.
There's no respect for women
from either one of those men.
And, also the fields that they work in
have historically worked against women.
I think we're doing ourselves a disservice
if we don't ask why that is.
Um, the root of it all honestly
is misogyny and misogynoir.
And there's... the, the Venn diagram
that's happening here
is really something to be noted.
You said I ran over to the Trump team
instead of the Biden team.
That's just not true.
-They both contacted me.
-Well, but you are working
with the Trump team instead
of the Biden team
and people giving you heat for it.
What do you say to them?
Well, I'm willing
to work with both teams,
but I'm just working with
whoever is willing to work with me.
[Tom Llamas] President Trump is
stepping up for a major recording artist.
A$AP Rocky, a rapper from Harlem
imprisoned in Sweden.
President Trump has issued his final list
of presidential pardons.
Other notable names
on the list include rappers,
Lil Wayne and Kodak Black.
I knew Wayne had-had a gun case.
So I seen that and I was like,
"Oh, yeah, he politicking.
He politicking, he get a pass."
[interviewer] So growing up, who was
the first president of the United States
that you remember being aware of?
Uh, Benjamin Franklin.
[interviewer] Do you remember when N.W.A
Fuck tha Police song came out?
Yeah, but that ain't my vibe, though
because I'm-- it's too, it's too blatant.
Like, I'm not that kinda person.
I stand for love, peace, growth,
evolving, never change.
Barack Obama...
-Alright, I gotta say this.
-[interviewer] Yeah.
It's a lot of people, right...
respectfully, that's not Black.
Barack Obama's
not from the hood of America.
People want... a Tupac kind of real nigga,
that's like a Donald Trump.
Like he's a real nigga
'cause he's unapologetic.
Black Lives Matter.
I just, I just didn't like
the narrative, my boy.
I just didn't like who invested
in that movement. Right?
Because what the fuck you talking about?
I'm 'bout-- We do matter.
Why are we saying like--
We know we matter.
Why are we pushing that agenda?
That's dumb.
Bro, it was.
[interviewer] When Trump says, quote,
"Grab them by the..."
that's, that's sexual assault.
-I'm not fucking with that at all.
-[interviewer laughs]
I have a mother, I have a daughter,
and that shit ain't nowhere
near fucking funny.
I don't even think that shit should be
in fucking headlines, right?
So that, that ain't nothing I play with.
So if you know me, you know me.
Nigga, I don't play
by women at all. At all.
Man, I ain't-- I, I rock with policies.
I rock with him being
a better president than the last guy.
That's all it is.
Why I like Trump?
'Cause he's better than Biden.
And who in this fucking room
gonna tell me I'm lying?
[interviewer] So why did you
decide to come out
and publicly endorse Trump 2024?
That's what people call endor--
Like, endorsing?
I don't know that. I swear to God, bro,
on my right hand to--
On my right hand to God,
I did not look at that
as being endorsing Trump.
[interviewer] What do you
wanna say to, to hip-hop,
to the people about
this election in the fall?
What I'm gonna say?
Only thing I could
possibly tell you is, man,
don't make a last-minute decision.
It's a lot of people
afraid to be frowned upon
for living they truth
or speaking they truth.
Man... hell, no.
-[John Roberts] So help you God?
-So help me God.
-[Roberts] Congratulations Mr. President.
-Thank you.
[band music playing]
Over the past 50 years,
hip-hop has become
as an unstoppable force in America.
It caught the ear of a,
a child from Newark, New Jersey.
I think we didn't see more hip-hop
in the Biden White House,
um, because of
some very apparent reasons.
Two of the great artists of our time
representing the groundbreaking legacy
of hip-hop in America,
-LL J Cool J. Uh...
By the way, that boy's got,
that man's got biceps
bigger than my thighs.
I think he's spent...
And an MC Lyte. Both of you, thank you.
One of the most glaring... [laughs]
...was, uh, Biden talking
with the Breakfast Club.
If you have a problem
figuring out whether you're for me
or Trump, then you ain't Black.
Biden is old.
[laughs] He's, he's tired.
That man is exhausted.
We can't expect him to be out here
hanging out with Ice Spice.
It's, it's not, it's not in his contract.
You've been the vice president
for a Black president
and I think he just made
a lot of assumptions
that he got
some automatic juice with that,
that he really didn't get.
[Waters] Hip-hop has not realized
its full potential and influence
with presidential politics.
I'm telling you,
they could register more people,
turn out more people to vote,
get more people involved
than any other sector of our society
that I can think of.
If they ever use
the full force of their influence,
I think it will make
a significant difference.
We should be asking for a little bit more
of a return on our investment.
[chuckles] I feel like if people
are gonna want to use our voices,
if they're gonna want to hear from us
and want us to be figures that support
or do not support certain things,
we need to get something in return.
What do we want?
I think that's one of
the most important things.
What do you want?
That has to be on the table
before they start shuffling you around
and putting you in videos and quoting you
and all of this nonsense.
Because it's just a show at that point
in which we are getting played.
[Chika] Hip-hop was born from rebellion.
If we wanted to find any kind of truth,
find any kind of meaning,
purpose in hip-hop
and this election season,
we would need to examine the roots
of what hip-hop came from.
[YG] N.W.A, Eazy-E,
you know what I'm saying?
Ice Cube, Tupac. You know what I'm saying?
We grew up, everything they did
and what they came from
and the marks they left.
You feel me?
On a hip-hop culture in the community,
once you realize, like, the situation
and position you in,
I start feeling like I got a duty.
You know what I'm saying?
We gonna take on whatever motto,
whatever's motherfucking in front of us,
whatever the size.
Like, come on, let's do it.
Fuck it, let's go.
They cannot be stopped.
New ideas, new language.
You know what I'm saying?
You can get any president,
you can line 'em up,
and put 'em in an arena.
Nobody's gonna recite any words
he said for 45 minutes straight.
And when you look at people like us,
people know each and every word
'cause that's what we mean to them.
We are the voice of the people.
Hip-hop is the power.
[hip-hop music playing]
[music continues]